The year that everyone seems to hate is coming to an end, but there is hope. Hope is something we cling to when the end is nigh. Comic book worlds are often in a state of disaster, threatened by monsters, aliens, and other apocalyptic events. Some stories are built on a premise that you know just can’t end well for anyone involved. If you feel like the world is about to end and love a bit of history, here’s one to pick up now. Don’t wait for the trade paperback in late February (just in case next year doesn’t work out after all).
Lake of Fire. Issues 1-5. Nathan Fairbairn and Matt Smith. Image Comics, 2016.
Aliens are often crash-landing on Earth and our protagonists are generally capable of dealing with any threat. Usually, there is a challenge to get things back to normal, but without that we would have no story. But these aliens generally appear in modern times, likely due to our own technological advances alerting them to our presence. Imagine what would happen if the aliens crashed 500 years ago in a time of knights with swords. This doesn’t sound like an encounter that will end well for the people of Earth.
Lake of Fire takes place in the French Pyrenees in the year 1220. The newly knighted young Sir Theobald of Champagne is eager to join the glory of the battle for Christendom. He finds, instead, knights bored with a local siege, a friar who sees heretics everywhere, and a village under attack by demons. There are no aliens from another planet in the medieval world view, but this makes it more fun for the reader. We know that a spaceship crashed and that these are aliens, not demons. Our modern world view believes in aliens.
For those who like comics laced with fact, Lake of Fire will not disappoint. A quick Internet check — because everything on the Internet is true — confirms that the Fourth Crusade was an appalling sack by Christian knights on the Christian city of Constantinople. Civilians were slaughtered, churches were looted and destroyed, and the Crusaders never set foot anywhere near an Infidel. This is part of the reason that an older knight Sir Theo meets no longer sees the glory of God in the slaughter of the Crusades. Theo also encounters a female Cathar perfect, which is not incorrect. Unlike Catholicism, Catharism allowed women to administer their sacrament.
Lake of Fire is beautifully presented with an engaging story. The basic premise makes it seem impossible that the knights stand any chance against the aliens, but we continue to hope that they might prevail after all. A sharp sword wielded well can kill a bunch of demon alien monsters. Perhaps the end is nigh, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight against it and try to survive.